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Elton John World News: Book review: ELTON JOHN'S FLOWER FANTASIES

Book review: ELTON JOHN'S FLOWER FANTASIES-- Posted by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday 12 November 1997 @ 1:00 - GMT

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">By George Matlock

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Elton often surprises the world with his candidness, allowing a nine-year schoolboy to interview him, or, as this book shows, allowing an author with apparently only an interest in flora into his lavish Woodside home.

 

Elton John's Flower Fantasies, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, last year, priced £18.99, is more than a coffee table book. It's indeed beautifully illustrated with large colour photos of Woodside's interior, Elton's clothes - and flowers. This is a magical mystery tour of Elton's home - an unparalleled exposition. And the book's journey around Woodside and the ornamental landscaped gardens is truly a challenge to put into words.

 

The book divides into eight sections, following themes and showing Elton's moods. There's a blue and mauve section, pink and pale, and red and orange section, which intimately tells us that roses are always placed in Elton's bedroom because he loves them. Evidently, Elton cherishes his photo call with a mature lion for the "Circle of Life" video, and the bedside cabinet also uncovers part of the wedding photo of Trudie Styler to Sting.

 

Elton also tells us that Spring is his favourite season, with the first signs of green visible in the garden, trees budding and daffodils lining his driveway. "In May, I love walking in my woods and looking at the sea of bluebells," he says.

 

The language of professional author Cass is also very flowery but apt for this kind of unusual book about Elton and his possessions. But most of the interviewing wasn't with Elton, but Elton's so-called "flower girls" the ladies who deliver and arrange intricately Elton's flowers.

 

And there are plenty of flowers in every room. The festive Christmas period is also shown, complete with holly, poinsettia, and fir cones.

 

In the garden, true fans will already recognise the figurine in the British old telephone box, decorated with ivy and pink roses. Elton admits: "I've always liked gardens and I've always loved flowers, but I haven't got green fingers at all".

 

For a man so private, Elton has really opened up his home to inspection. Happily, he has no reason to be embarrassed. The place is immaculate, although giving the impression it's too good to live in. Which it may be: there are no photos of Elton at his home.

 

Each photo by Andrew Twort is as much a work of art as Elton's rooms and ornate flower arrangements. As one continues on the tour of Elton's abode, I sense a great money-making idea: Why not open up Woodside to the public for two months each summer? I've already spent two hours in a press preview of Buckingham Palace a couple of years ago, and think tourists would probably like something different this time! Besides, my impressions of the Palace were lasting and wonderful - but in truth I prefer Elton's pad ma'am!

 

Admission charges could go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Frankly, the home is a palace. It is much changed and improved from when Elton decided on a clear-out in 1988, and auctioned many items at Sotheby's. Before, it looked like somewhere a rock star lives, complete with all his rock trophies. Now it looks like the home of the Prince of Music, our Mozart, Elton.

 

The book is also interspersed with apt extracts of Taupin's song lyrics. And Elton's place is no Empty Garden.

 

Despite Elton's decision to buy other houses in recent years, Brits will be relieved to read his comment in the book: "Woodside is the hub of my soul probably. My other houses - Queensdale in London, Atlanta and the South of France are like appendages to the tree." We sure hope he's rooted here!

 

While all rooms follow a theme, I guess the only domestic eye-sore is also the fan's larva: the mahogany partner's desk which Elton has crammed full of photos of himself with other artists, around his Oscar from the "Lion King" score.

 

Some of the Woodside which Elton acquired in 1976 remains, I'm pleased to say. Elton is not short of a few gold and platinum discs. These grace the walls, ceiling and the floor of corridors. The discs are so numerous they literally form the superstructure of the corridor! Adding effect, the bouquet of flowers in the corner of one of the labyrinthian corridors has been sprayed gold and silver.

 

I'm surprised to see a copy of Cliff Richard duet "Slow Rivers" lying on a piano stool carved in goat leg shapes. No, it's the sheet music which caught my attention, not the chair! Unlike on the album "Leather Jackets" the sheet music is called "Slow Rivers Run Cold".

 

An inside pool is cool blue and has a finishing touch: pink and white water lilies grace the water line. This could be fit for a Davidoff cosmetics commercial, it's that clinical. But as I wander through this house, the impressions are more regal than modern. There's nothing minimalist about the house either, and the flowers elaborate and truly spectacular. Although I love flowers too - which made reviewing this book all the more pleasurable - I'm convinced anyone would appreciate nature after opening up this book.

 

And no dandelion dies in the wind! The book documents 115 forms of vegetation, including 31 of Elton's beloved roses. The roses have evocative names like Cappuccino, Ecstasy, Emily, and Renata - although not spelt the same way as his ex-wife, Renate Blauel.

 

But the book also digresses into Elton's lifestyle. In the few extracts where Elton contributes his thoughts, he pays tribute to those of his management who have stayed loyal, and whom David Furnish calls the "medieval court".

Elton also speaks of pet hates, such as chrysanthemums and babies' breath. He can't understand how men can wear carnations in lapels, and thinks they belong pretty only in a garden. He also dislikes the scent of jonquils (daffodils to those of you not in-the-know) and cousin narcissus. So now you know what flowers NOT to throw on stage!

 

There is a sombre part to the book too. In Woodside, Elton built a chapel on the foundations of the Orangery, in memory of his beloved nan, Ivy Sewell, who lived there before it was destroyed in a fire. In the bright chapel are two rare seventeenth century giltwood chairs (only six exist) which once belonged in private apartments of King William III of Hampton Court. A full-height altar has a Christian cross, and high above on each wall is Elton's coat of arms. It shows a knight's helmet, and below piano keys, gold discs, and his motto: "Eltono Es Bueno" (Elton is good). This is not a genuine heraldic family title, but one born of Elton's good humour. A series of plaques bearing names of Elton's friends who have died of AIDS are soon to be mounted on the walls.

 

And Elton talks of his creature comforts. He has 10 dogs which he adores. Elton says that at first he rented Queensdale, a Victorian cardboard factory, when he was in drug rehabilitation. Pet dog Thomas, a black and tan mutt Elton spoke of in 1990's Radio 1 interview, still lives there. It was probably the dog Stephan saw last April but he swears it was called Dennis!

 

Finally, onto some serious statistics. Flower girls Julia Wigan and Susie Hill spend most of their week for their one client. It can take six hours to make the weekly list of flowers for each room at Woodside - and Queensdale. Elton insists on their efforts at Queensdale, where up to 650 flowers are used weekly, while Woodside takes 1,000 a week. Elton also employs 5 full-time gardeners, including long-time head gardener, Charlie. Don't bother applying - Elton's very pleased with their dedicated and professional work!